We all need a bit of assistance now and again. Customer Service platforms thrive on our various dilemmas and questions. But where do authors go for short, snappy tips?
Author Helpdesk is my small attempt to address this conundrum and talk about the things that crop up again and again when I'm editing fiction. So, let's start at the beginning ...
What's the Story?
As we all know, story is crucial to any novel, and the fundamental story — that is, the plot — is what forms the unifying thread that essentially holds any book together, unites characters and subplots, and keeps the reader where the author wants them ... engrossed in their book. So, getting it right is vital to the success of your novel.
What's the Problem?
In my experience, many writers, particularly new ones, struggle with the following:
- Overcomplicating the story
- Concentrating on issues, or themes, at the expense of story — literally losing the plot!
- Writing too much
- Drafting a series before they've completed the first instalment
Admittedly, seeing the bigger picture is easier when you're not immersed in the project, but if you suspect that your book might be suffering from any or several of the above problems, then try asking yourself:
- Are you perhaps trying to do too much within the confines of one book? A lengthy tome might indicate this is the case.
- Has the basic story disappeared beneath a plethora of weighty issues? Does your book deal very visibly with topics such as bullying, sexism, social injustice, and so on, rather than what your characters are up to?
- Does your novel vastly exceed 100k words? If it's not fantasy, then consider that most commercial fiction is shorter than, or around, this extent.
- How many stories are you actually trying to write? Do you perhaps have enough material for more than one novel?
- What's your book about?
- What happens in it? Is there a clear narrative objective?
- Who does the story happen to? Is there a clearly defined main protagonist?
- Is your story actually on the page, or is it still in your head?
- Most importantly, why should someone keep reading it?